These last few months have been a bit of a roller coaster. I started a new job in August and let me just say it plainly, I love my job. I quickly tried to learn every aspect of it so that I could do it well. Over the last few months, there have been some staffing changes which as required me to pick up some additional responsibilities. As the size of my job increased, two other things began to shrink: my presence at home and the amount of time I slept each night. I was quickly realizing this was not sustainable. I began to feel depleted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I didn’t think I was parenting well. I wasn’t supporting or partnering with Trish well. It had been months since I’d seen my close friends. I was just surviving at work.
Trish and I were talking the other day about how we hear about how people go through hard times but only hear a sentence or two how they actually get through the hard times, if even that. There’s a lot of focus on what happened to make times hard and then a lot of focus on the celebration after the hard times. But how do you get through hard times? Our conversation inspired this blog.
This isn’t the first rough patch I’ve had on this fostering journey. If you’ve read The Call to Love, you know that we’ve had some lows. I wasn’t quite at the bottom yet, but I knew I was getting close and something needed to change. I wasn’t strategic when I decided to make changes. So even though I’m going to lay them out, it was just what I did first, second, and third. I didn’t have a plan, except that I needed to do something. And sometimes, that’s all you can do.
#1 I talked to my boss. Even as I write this, I’ve only been at my job just over four months. I felt I was still trying to prove myself. I wanted to show I was a hard worker, ready for more. There is potential in the organization and leadership is a passion of mine. I wanted to show I could take on complicated tasks, delegate to others, and be strategic in management. Although my motives were good, the intensity with which I was pursuing those goals was a huge mistake. I was trying to do too much too fast and I wasn’t impressing anyone. So I spoke with her and we came up with a clear division of tasks. I had to let go of my own vision. I needed to regroup and refocus. It helped.
2# I found something that filled me up. My commute isn’t terrible but I do spend about an hour or more a day in the car. Usually I’m just trying to find something to fill the time and make it go by. But recently I came across a few podcasts that fill up my emotional and spiritual tank rather than just help time go by. I started listening to these and I noticed a change. I felt a little more inspired. I looked forward to my drive to work in the morning. I was more present and relaxed when I arrived home in the evening. (If you are looking for a new one, I find Mosaic to be really inspiring).
3# I pulled out an old trick… music. In some of my lowest times on this fostering journey, there have been a key set of songs that have lifted me up and helped me keep going. I have labeled this playlist, “Hope.” I’ve listened to these songs with tears streaming down my face and the deepest ache in my heart. I’ve listened to these songs rejoicing because of breakthroughs and victories. I’ve added to and changes the playlist over the years, but there is still a key set of songs that help me day-to-day. Over the last month I have chosen to have them going in the background in my office at work, on a walk with the dog or while I’m washing dishes. I have really noticed how those songs are able to connect me to what I really want my life to be about. Which brings me back to the present moment. Reminding me of the man and father I want to choose to be in that hour.
4# Mindfulness & Radical Acceptance. Trish and I have have talked a fair bit through the blogs about these coping skills. It works for our kids and for us a parents. Over the past few months I have come home from work plenty of times stressed, distracted, and with little patience. I’m thinking about the hours of work ahead of me that I need to do after I put the kids to bed. I’m stressed about the meeting scheduled for tomorrow. I’m weighed down because of the issues I dealt with during the day. What I’m about to suggest is not easy. I know that. I’m still living it. These coping skills take practice and I’m still practicing it. But for the past few weeks, when I am at work, I focus on being present there and I work hard. I am busy and focused and I am doing my best to be strategic and the leader my team needs. But then, on my way home I use those podcasts to transition my state of mind. Then, when I walk in the door, I try to stay in the moment and observe what is needed of me by Trish & the kids. I try to accept the reality that I just might not be able to do any more work tonight. I will do my best, but if I cannot, it will be ok. I try to accept that the tough issues I dealt with today at the office are done and over. Continuing to analyze them will not do any good. They will only distract me from the present. They are in the past and I attempt to focus on this moment, which is being home with my family.
I’m going to be honest with you. This is as far as I’ve gotten. This is a hard season for families like ours. I am busy with work, our kids emotions are all over the place from excitement about Christmas, to missing their biological family. We have lots of people coming into our home this week and it is a bit chaotic. There are food issues brought up by the holidays, lack of school structure and messed up bedtimes. Not all of our young adult children are in places that we had dreamed for them. We are managing our own expectations, hopes and disappointments.
But as we walk through these hard times with you, I wanted to share these few changes that have helped me. They haven’t fixed the problem, but I’m better than I was. When we say yes to these incredibly ridiculous situations, we need to also remember that we are not going to be perfect. We’re going to screw it up, often daily.
But we can always take a deep breath & start over.
We can always make a small change. The hard times are going to come. The lows will hit us. But it isn’t going to stay that way. It will get better. Find those things that fill you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Build those into your day, week, month one step at a time.